By Glenn Pew, Contributing Editor, Video Editor
Wreckage of a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver single-engine dive bomber has been discovered in privately owned woods near Rockaway Beach, Ore., but its origins and crew remain to be identified. The World War II-era aircraft's wreckage was originally spotted by employees of a logging company on March 18. The wreckage covers approximately 200 yards and early responders did report the possibility of human remains at the site. Among the more clearly identifiable aircraft debris at the site are a wing, the tail section, and landing gear. Officials have not found any unexploded ordnance mixed in with the wreckage but are attempting to secure the site while the investigation continues. Navy personnel, in coordination with Oregon State Police and the county Sheriff's office, are working together on the investigation. The team has sought input from the Joint Prisoner of War/Missing In Action Accounting Command in Honolulu.
What was once the Naval Air Station at Tillamook is located nearly 20 miles from the crash site, but investigators have not yet determined if that was the aircraft's station of origin. The air station was decommissioned in 1948. The Helldiver was operated by a crew of two and could carry 2,000 pounds of bombs, depth charges, or an internally carried torpedo. It entered service in 1943, flying behind a 1,900-horsepower Wright Cyclone radial. Known by its crew as the "big-tailed beast," the World War II-era Navy plane has been credited by some as causing the destruction of more Japanese targets than any other aircraft of the war. The Commemorative Air Force believes it operates the world's only remaining flying example.